Like most other parents I’ve spent the summer juggling kids, work, holidays and various other bits and pieces. In some ways this isn’t really any different from any other time, but the length of the summer holidays, the long days and the essential appeal of sitting out in the sun means that, for me at least, during the summer the see-saw of my work-life balance tips in an interesting and unfamiliar direction.
Most of the time, work fills up most of my life. This isn’t to say I don’t spend time with my family or do anything else. But the 5 X 8 hours discipline of the working week means that I simply spend more time at work than I do doing any other thing. What is more I frequently slop outside of the 8 hours, finishing up things that “need doing”, checking email and so on. What is more I like it, I’m not someone who has a strict distinction between work and play and most of the time I’m happy to be working. I find it difficult to leave work behind and often find that something that the kids have said or I’ve seen on the TV sparks some work-related idea.
However, during the summer, because of holidays and child care responsibilities work has to take a back seat. Consequently I fill my days with other things which I start to find just as interesting as work. Projects with the kids absorb me, the challenge of existing in a tent for a week engages me, I read fiction again, the guitar comes out for the first time for ages, I think about learning to Lindy Hop and so on. I don’t do nothing very well, but I do find it easy to throw my self into something or indeed anything.
Inevitably this leads me towards reflection. Do I really love what I do as much as I think? Would a career change be more interesting? For about five minutes last week I contemplated running off to join the circus after a morning failing to learn how to walk on a circus ball and do a Diablo. More realistically I fantasise about balancing my work and play differently so that I can devote Thursdays to learning the tremolo harp or Friday’s to running a counter-cultural happening.
So where does all of this reflective daydreaming lead me? In all honesty, probably nowhere. In fact, probably straight back to work. What I’ve recognised about myself in the past, and what this reminds me, is that I don’t have a vocation. I can be happy (and sad) doing a pretty wide variety of stuff. I throw myself into things and try and push them as far as I can. Career is a lived experience – it is about making something meaningful of your life experiences. It is hardly surprising if holidays, in which your lived experiences are radically different from the rest of your life can make you rethink and seek alternative narratives.
I seek creativity, progression, social engagement and the vain hope of doing some good in the world around me (oh and money of course). If I can find that I’ll probably keep on keeping on. If I can’t you might just find me working up a juggling act in Ibiza.